Riding waves like a champ

Riding waves like a champ

Wakesurfing takes practice, but it's fun when you get the hang of it

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YP sub-editor Amy Russell hones her wakesurfing skills in Tai Tam Tuk.
YP sub-editor Amy Russell hones her wakesurfing skills in Tai Tam Tuk.
Photos: Paul Yeung/SCMP
You like snowboarding? What about surfing?

You may not feel up to braving the huge swells during a typhoon in Hong Kong, but there is another way to surf the waves. Or rather, surf the wake - those waves made by the back of a speedboat.

The answer is wakesurfing.

Wakeboarding involves strapping yourself on to a board using boots and bindings (very similar to snowboarding) and being towed along behind a speedboat. Wakesurfing takes this a step further: you're not strapped on at all, and you don't use a tow line.

Wakeboard.com.hk instructor Hammer Tsui broke me in to the sport at Tai Tam Tuk, where the still waters in a tranquil bay provide the ideal setting for beginners.

She demonstrated the sport herself, making it look all too easy - unsurprisingly, as she is a former (2007) Hong Kong Water Ski Association wake surf champion. Then it was my turn to don a life vest and take the plunge. I lay on my back in the water, with one foot (the leading one) positioned in the centre of the board and the other on the tail end, knees together.

Luckily, the board had lots of grip, so I wasn't too worried about slipping off.

Amazingly, I managed to stand up the first time! I just followed Hammer's instructions to push my heels down as I started to feel a pull on the rope - and all of a sudden I was dragged up and on to my feet.

Finding my balance, I then manoeuvred the board a bit to the left, where the water was steadier.

Standing upright, it was important to keep my back straight and my knees bent. The stance is very similar to that of snowboarding, surfing, or wakeboarding. When I was steady, I pulled myself towards the boat using the tow line, and rode like that behind the boat for a while until I felt comfortable.

The next step was letting go of the tension of the rope, so I was no longer being pulled along by the boat but was effectively riding along myself, in the wake. "When you reach this stage," said Hammer, "you can let go of the rope."

This is where wakesurfing gets trickier. It's quite hard to keep the momentum going and keep moving forward behind the boat. Putting weight on your front foot propels you forward, but you don't want to hit the back of the boat or push the nose of the board into the water.

Putting weight on the back foot slows you down, but you don't want to stop and sink, which I ended up doing after just a few seconds! It takes time and practice to get this right. If you can master it, wakesurfing is a great sport that makes you feel freer than wakeboarding, but is easier than surfing.

One of the great things about wakesurfing is that it allows you to practise standing on a board, which can also improve your surfing skills - without all that tiring paddling! If you get really good, Hammer said, "you can try tricks like 360s or ollies ... any surfing tricks, really". You might have to wait a long time before you catch me doing any of those, though.

Special thanks to wakeboard.com.hk. To buy the right gear, head to CWB: www.islandwake.com


See what else we're doing this summer

- Canoe polo
- Capoeira
- Golf
- Fly yoga
- Ice hockey
- Lacrosse
- Lawn bowls
- Pilates

... and revisit last year's YP does the Olympic Games

- Archery
- BMX
- Boxing
- Equestrian
- Handball
- Rhythmic gymnastics
- Rowing
- Sailing
- Taekwondo
- Trampolining

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